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Global teams

A good number of us will have been a member of a team at some point. The majority of business schools, and universities for that matter, encourage team-work to some degree. If you have worked in a team you may be acutely aware of the following challenges this brings: cultural differences, clashing personalities, misunderstandings, language barriers and so on.

One part of team-working that most universities don’t teach us, is how to work in a virtual team; the same concept as team-working, just with a significant amount of distance between team members. According to a recent report, approximately 87% of white collar employees of multinational companies conduct at least parts of their work globally.

Managing globally dispersed teams requires a structured approach to ensure team cohesion and top performance outcomes. Tsedal Neeley suggests that team managers create “moments” to help facilitate the positive outcomes the team desires. These assist in overcoming the typical team-work challenges that can be greatly exaggerated when working in virtual teams. These moments include:

  1. Structuring unstructured time
  2. Forcing disagreements
  3. Stressing differences
  4. Creating awareness moments

There’s one factor that I believe deserves extra attention when considering how to effectively work in a multi-cultural virtual team. This is the cultural element. One benefit of working within close proximity of others, is that face-to-face meetings can be a good way to resolve issues and challenge each other with reasonable ease. This is not the case when national boundaries replace office walls.

For example, in some cultures confrontation is expected and can be utilised to galvanise progress within the team. However, in others, such as some Asian countries, confrontation is avoided like the plague. Without knowledge of certain nuances like this, top performance is going to be an unreachable objective.

Many cross-cultral indicators are available to compare certain cultures. A basic understanding of these can assist when tackling virtual team-work. Ensuring that you are aware of these indicators can place you in a more informed position as you progress through the projects you are working on.


Source: deborahswallow.com


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